On Monday, Wandsworth Council’s executive approved a new pub protection policy that will see a blanket Article 4 (A4) direction issued across the borough — meaning any change of use or development of a pub would need the council’s approval.
The authority’s Supplementary Planning Document sets out a series of value criteria to decide whether a pub merits protection. As well as location in a conservation area, listed status and historic value, the council has set out four community value criteria. They are: if it has a licence for entertainment/events/performances/ sports; if it has rooms/areas for hire; if it has non-licensed events; and if it has its own sports club/team.
While the council would only say it expects “dozens” of pubs to be covered by the A4, it appears that all but 17 of the borough’s 177 pubs fall into at least one criteria. Until now there have been fewer than 40 occasions across the country when A4s were successfully applied, including around 20 in Cambridge.
Deputy council leader Jonathan Cook said the protracted fight over the Wheatsheaf in Tooting, which became the authority’s first A4, had prompted the move. He said he was aware that, despite the added protection, if the council refused to allow a change of use in the future that could be lost on appeal.
He said: “We have made an important statement with the A4 but we cannot pretend the pub is safe from redevelopment. That’s why we are amending our borough planning guidance to recognise the special community value pubs bring and their historic and architectural significance.
“As soon as the new guidance came into force we would issue an A4 to remove permitted development rights from dozens of pubs across Wandsworth, bringing them under the protection of our new pub policy.”
Dan Watkins, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Tooting and chair of the Wheatsheaf Supporters Campaign, said: “These proposals must surely make Wandsworth the most pro-pub council in the country.
“We have a growing population and we have to ensure that all community facilities grow with that population. That means schools, and hospitals, but it also means pubs. They are an invaluable community resource.”
Geoff Strawbridge, director of the Campaign for Real Ale’s Greater London region, said: “A blanket A4 seems to me the best thing a local planning authority can do at present to help save its pub heritage and it is great news that there are now people in Wandsworth who would contemplate being so bold.”
However, Strawbridge warned that the proposal was still subject to consultation and could be diluted.